HOPE Lite: Will parents like the less filling taste?

This piece is my Monday print column, which has been met almost universally with comments that Georgia parents had a free ride and now it's over. It is time for those parents to save money for college or make their kids work. (AP Images)

This piece is my Monday print column, which has been met almost universally with comments that Georgia parents had a free ride and now it's over. It is time for those parents to save money for college or make their kids work, according to my e-mail today. (AP Images)

The new HOPE Lite unveiled last week by Gov. Nathan Deal is less filling, but longer lasting than Classic HOPE.

I’m not sure too many Georgia students or their parents are going to like the taste.

Deal has done the political heavy lifting of downgrading HOPE, the beloved college scholarship program created by former Gov. Zell Miller and praised for its simplicity.

An inspiration for programs in other states, HOPE was one of the few college scholarships that could be distilled into one sentence: Earn a B average in high school, keep it in college and Georgia will pay your college costs.

Suddenly, bright Georgia students who once would have been Tar Heels were wearing red and rooting for the Bulldogs.

Rather than only stopping in Valdosta for lunch en route to Orlando, metro Atlanta families are now stopping to see Valdosta State University.

The simplicity and generosity of the HOPE scholarship made it such a success that the funding source, the Georgia Lottery, could not keep pace. HOPE serves 200,000 college students, while 82,000 children are in Georgia pre-k.

With the lottery unable to fully underwrite HOPE or the state’s universal pre-k program, tough decisions had to be made. In the end, Deal chose to spread the pain around to all programs. Unfortunately, his changes eliminate the simplicity of HOPE.

Now, families have to read a lot of fine print to understand how a student qualifies for HOPE and which version, HOPE Lite or Classic HOPE.

Also erased is the $300 book allotment and money for mandatory fees, which provided $62 to $435 a semester depending on the college.

The difference could amount to nearly $7,500 over the four years, depending on which college a student attended.

Under Deal’s plan, most Georgia students starting college in the fall and those already enrolled will experience a reduced HOPE scholarship, 90 percent of tuition and zero for books and fees.

And they will get only one chance to regain it if they fall below the required 3.0 grade point average.

For a sliver of students, Deal proposes to maintain full tuition funding, but recipients have several new hurdles to cross. He dubs these super achievers Zell Miller Scholars.

In high school, they must have had a 3.7 GPA and at least 1200 on the 1600-scale SAT.

Once in college, they have to maintain a 3.5 GPA, which is higher than most honors programs impose for students to maintain their standing and beyond what most private colleges require for their scholarship recipient to hold on to their merit aid.

In fact, the average GPA of the Georgia Tech Honors Program is 3.34 for the Class of 2011.

In what is proving his most controversial change, Deal wants the new rules to apply to current college students, which means that thousands of families will see a spike in their college tabs next year.

It also means that a student’s high school transcript casts a very, very long shadow.

For instance, college students who had a perfect SAT score and a 3.6 GPA in high school but have maintained straight A’s in college still only qualify for HOPE Lite because they fell short of the magic 3.7 GPA.

The changes to HOPE are also creating concerns in high schools as students who were feeling pretty good about their 3.6 or 3.5 GPA are now panicked.

Some are already calculating whether they should reconsider their course selections for next year to make it easier to snare the 3.7 GPA needed to earn full HOPE funding.

As one mom said, “My daughter is signed up to take four AP classes next year. We are now actually discussing whether she should do that.”

“All it does incentivize you to dumb it down and play it safe,” says north Fulton parent Albert Bodamer, whose son is bound for Georgia Tech next year.

Even having taken two Tech math courses at Tech in high school and with a near-perfect SAT score, his son is only eligible for HOPE Lite under new rules, says Bodamer.

He and other parents note that the 3.7 GPA requirement penalizes top high school students who take AP courses.

Under Georgia’s rules, weighting points are given for AP classes unless the student earns an A. They don’t get the 0.5 point bump to achieve a 4.5 score because the highest weight a student can obtain is 4.0.

“So, perversely, students are motivated to take the easiest possible core curricula to maximize their potential to achieve a 3.7 GPA,” says Bodamer.

If ever there was a year when teachers can expect pressure to inflate grades, it will be for the graduating class of 2012.

It is too late mathematically for the class of 2011 to do much about raising their GPAs.

But any Georgia seniors on the verge of a 3.7 are probably rethinking any plans to slack off in these final three months or join in the traditional senior skip day.

–By Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

60 comments Add your comment


February 28th, 2011
12:18 pm

I can understand making changes in the program to keep it solvent. What I can’t understand is applying it to CURRENT COLLEGE STUDENTS. The state made a contract with these students to pay 100% of the tuition, plus fees and a book voucher if they had a B average or better and kept it in college. These students and their parents made plans based on this PROMISE from the state.

To come back now and change this on CURRENT students is WRONG! The program is NOT BROKE. There is still a reserve and they should use that reserve to buy time for current students so that they can finish. They EARNED this scholarship by working hard to meet the requirements and the promise we made to them should be honored. I think that we should also extend this for high school seniors who don’t have time to change in order to meet the NEW requirements.

GA Teach

February 28th, 2011
12:25 pm

Colleges still want students to take AP courses because of the rigor and it counts as a 1/3 of their entrance into college.

GPA+SAT=Freshman Index (1/3), Rigor of courses taken in high school (AP, IB, Gifted, Honors) (1/3), and the Extras…clubs, sports, etc (1/3)

This is what UGA looks at when considering acceptance.

GA Teach

February 28th, 2011
12:28 pm

Grade inflation will not matter because students still will have to make a 1200 on the verbal and math sections of the SAT.


The average is 1017.


February 28th, 2011
12:33 pm

One quick way that Deal could offset some of the tuition hit is by taking a leaf from the North Carolina system and mandating that USG campuses offer a book swap whereby students pay a per-semester fee and can ‘rent’ textbooks that are turned in rather than having to buy new or even used texts. In addition , the governor should immediately require that all assignments of new textbooks over a certain cost – say, $20 – be reviewed by faculty committees and that earlier (and far less expensive) editions of textbooks be used unless significant and substantive changes have been made. Parents and students currently spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars every semester on new editions of the most expensive texts, typically math and sciences, that bear few changes and are simply a means by which to increase faculty royalties and gouge buyers. Deal could, and should, stop this immediately.

Dr. John Trotter

February 28th, 2011
12:39 pm

More grade inflation is on the way.

GA Teach

February 28th, 2011
12:40 pm

The tax payers already pay 75% of students tuition before HOPE.


February 28th, 2011
12:42 pm

Less filling.. longer lasting.. well, I’ll take my men that way.

Inman Park Boy

February 28th, 2011
12:42 pm

Any system you may devise will “offend” someone’s sense of entitlement, but it was clear that changes were needed if HOPE were going to survive at all. I have a son at Georgia State on HOPE, for which he did NOT qualify as a freshman (he played around in HS), but he now has a 3.7 GPA. I doubt that he would ever qualify for the full HOPE, but I am satisfied if he qualifies for anything at all, as that means less out of our family budget. Also, don’t forget: HOPE is funded by the lottery, NOT by a tax. So, if you don’t like HOPE at all, don’t gamble. As for me, I buy tickets every week so I can help out YOUR kid.

GA Teach

February 28th, 2011
12:43 pm

HOPE does calculate the .5 for the GPA even if they get an A. It just means they do not count anything higher then a 4.0 for the final GPA.


February 28th, 2011
12:43 pm

What is a 3.7 in numerical terms, a 97 grade point average or 87 grade point average? Is the 3.7 based on overall grade point average or your core average?

GA Teach

February 28th, 2011
12:49 pm

GA Teach

February 28th, 2011
12:50 pm

The last link explains how to calculate HOPE GPA.

GA Teach

February 28th, 2011
12:52 pm


Core+Academic Elective Core (3rd and 4th year foreign language, or a social studies elective).

College Mom

February 28th, 2011
12:57 pm

Look at AP classes this way — shy away because you might not make an A to qualify for Hope, or take the class, do well on the exam and skip the associated class in college. The latter means no tuition or books for that class. My daughter started college with a 43 hour advantage due to high AP scores and GA Tech Distance Calculus (Calculus 2&3) paid for by Hope (an Accel grant). That’s a whole year advantage.

Nicely Done

February 28th, 2011
12:57 pm

Parents, if you don’t like what HOPE pays for then feel free to pay for your own kid’s tuition.


February 28th, 2011
1:44 pm

Maureen says :Under Georgia’s rules, weighting points are given for AP classes unless the student earns an A. They don’t get the 0.5 point bump to achieve a 4.5 score because the highest weight a student can obtain is 4.0.
GA Teach says :HOPE does calculate the .5 for the GPA even if they get an A. It just means they do not count anything higher than a 4.0 for the final GPA.

Where is this rule spelled out? It is not in the Georgia Code Annotated. That only states that quality points will be added to AP and IB courses. The code does not even stipulate that the additional amount is 0.5.


February 28th, 2011
1:46 pm

I am very much NOT in favor of the loan proposal, as it means even more people hired to administer the program. Also, with Georgia in the hole it is in, how can we afford to loan out money at well below bank rates? And how can we afford to hire those to collect these below market rate loans?

However, make these loans ONLY available to current college students and high school seniors, and I would support that. They are the ones who’ve been the victims of “gotcha!” Make these loans available for only 2 years, to give students a chance to make the new grade required. Then, shut off the spiggot completely. The state does NOT need to be in the business of making loans!

2 cents

February 28th, 2011
2:11 pm

just to clarify;

the hope lite is 90% tution with a 3.0

miller 100% is with a 3.7

are those numbers correct

The first Atlanta mom

February 28th, 2011
2:19 pm

College Mom,
If your child is currently receiving HOPE, the hours you used in the Accel program count against your total HOPE hours.
Just thought you should know, in case your child plans to stay in school for four years, You may have to pay tuition the last semester or two.

College Mom

February 28th, 2011
2:21 pm

@The first Atlanta mom — my daughter decided to go out of state. Part of the thinking was the unreliability of Hope. I was just pointing out that shying away from AP could be costly.


February 28th, 2011
2:22 pm

This is very disheartening.

I got a GED instead of a High school diploma, I have never taken an SAT or ACT in my life. Yet I have been in College for 2 years on Hope and am currently a 4.0 Student on many honor rolls, but it sounds like come summer I will be out on the street because Hope even on the intent of being merit based will not care whether I am a top student or not.

In addition it seems a bad idea because of many other students in my situation or those who will not have meet the new, sudden and dramatic GPA changes will be force to drop out of school and the funds already paid by the hope scholarship will be completely wasted!

I am extremely bothered because in addition to the hope I had to take additional student loans to make college possible, and now I may be stuck with student debt despite lacking the degree, and yet it is not an issue of academics but rather one of financials and politics.

Atlanta mom

February 28th, 2011
2:24 pm

And while Maureen’s numbers are all correct in terms of increased costs, please keep in mind, the current year “fees” at GT and UGA are $833 a semester. So, if those fees don’t increase and you figure $500 a semester for books (which the universities used as a budget amount), with full HOPE it will still cost $2,666 per year to attend plus room and board (another $8,000-$9,000).
A bargain no doubt, but still a chunk of change.


February 28th, 2011
2:31 pm

I think there should be a boycott of the Georgia Lottery, especially people whom are on the lower economic spectrum. It is unfair that this group who purchase and provide the most revenue for the lottery children will probably benefit the least from the new requirements. More lottery tickets are sold in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods and towns in Georgia. Areas where kids are in lower performing schools, less likely to have 3.2 – 3.7 GPA’s, less knowledageble teachers, and less resources. Come on people think!!! Boycott this plan to send more wealthier kids to school with your money!!!! Ask the Lottery corporation to create more games that are aimed at benefiting your child’s education. The kids in your community who may have 3.0 GPA’s despite the lack of the best educational resources that are in the better performing schools. I say BOYCOTT for one week and let them see the impact.


February 28th, 2011
2:50 pm

Currently tuition and all fees are $2933 per semester at UGA X 10% + $293 out of pocket. Not bad for a top flight state school. Yes books are $300+ per semester, but a decent portion of that can be gained back at resale. So at current rates that is $2344 for eight semesters, give me a break and get a part time job. Enough already with this “where’s mine” generation.


February 28th, 2011
2:51 pm

@phil a 3.7 gpa rounded off is a 92.5 numerically , while a 3.6 is a 90 and a 3.5 is and 87.5

Atlanta mom

February 28th, 2011
3:02 pm

I don’t know where your numbers are coming from, but I’m looking at a tuition bill from UGA and CT. Tuition alone at UGA is $3,535 plus $833 in fees (per semester). Perhaps you have one of those bills from the two year period when tuition was “fixed for four”.

Atlanta mom

February 28th, 2011
3:02 pm

That should be GT (not CT)

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

February 28th, 2011
3:17 pm


Does the GSFC maintain HOPE Scholarship retention data disaggregated by school and school system?

GA parents and their kids deserve to know how effectively our high schools and school systems are preparing their graduates to perform well in college.

Dream on

February 28th, 2011
3:31 pm

I really can’t complain about any of the changes. HOPE has lifted the quality of most Georgia colleges which are really economical to attend even without the HOPE scholarship (look at instate tuition at other State schools and you will see). Any HOPE help is fantastic and worth staying in Georgia for. We really can’t complain–it’s a great program and a good motivator for students and keeps talented students in Georgia.


February 28th, 2011
4:06 pm

College Mom
said it was better for her child to leave the state than deal with the risk of HOPE? What college out of state is cheaper and better than a in state college with HOPE?
All HOPE has done at UGA is to allow the students to burn mom and dad’s money on Leeburn’s liquor by underage drinking in downtown Athens.

College Mom

February 28th, 2011
4:20 pm

I never said it was cheaper. However, in our experience books, fees, and room and board are cheaper. My daughter was pretty much offered Hope as a scholarship, .period. had she stayed in state. She was offered more to go out of state and cost wasn’t the only factor in her decision on college. We didn’t feel that we could factor Hope into the decision because there was no guarantee that it would be available or that she would keep it as an Engineering major at GT. Each child is different and your mileage may vary…

HOPE Saved My Life

February 28th, 2011
4:34 pm

Atlanta…Imagine if we could buy alcohol on Sunday



February 28th, 2011
4:54 pm

SO your child will go to Auburn and get a less valued Engineering degree because she is afraid she can’t cut it at TECH. Well, I am glad she didn’t even try at Tech because she is not worthy of being a TECH Engineer if she is afraid to compete against the best. Hell send her to UGA and let her be a drunk Housing major.


February 28th, 2011
4:59 pm

GA Teach- I guess you missed the part that says “A’s are not weighted”

10. GSFC will add a .5 quality point weight on a TRUE 4.0 scale for Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses up to a maximum grade value of 4.0 (A’s are not weighted). No other courses will be weighted by GSFC unless authorized by the Georgia General Assembly.
11. The final HOPE GPA on a 4.0 scale will not be rounded up.


February 28th, 2011
5:00 pm

It is too late for seniors in high school to improve their GPA or retake the SAT. It was a promise that the state made to those children and they made commitments, some in the first semester, based on what the state provided in writing and now they change the rules.

It is terrible. This is exactly what they did to National Board Teachers, they committed to pay for a supplement for 10 years and then backed out after teachers made financial investments in the process and commitments. They gave those teachers six days notice of the drop in pay.

I understand cuts need to be made but breaking promises sets a bad example for students and leads to poor morale for teachers who have been the victims of the cuts. Also, when there is an economic improvement, the students and teachers are rarely considered.


February 28th, 2011
5:08 pm

I agree 100% with chuck. The “current students” are the ones who will suffer. I also agree with Shar. Books are atrocious at colleges. It is wrong to charge what they are charging for books. Just use old editions that won’t cost an arm and a leg. HOPE does not mean a “free” college education. It only pays for tuition. Parents and students also have to pay for room and board, meal plans(which are a joke – but every Freshman has to buy one), books and fees. College is not cheap. Most of the “current students” worked very hard to earn the HOPE and should not be the scapegoats for the new changes.


February 28th, 2011
5:30 pm

KMHSmom Not sure if this is going to show up as a link but here is where you can see the HOPE regulations for Public Institutions. See page 21 item “f” for the weighted grade info.


College Mom

February 28th, 2011
6:22 pm

Kim whatever, no she didn’t go to Auburn. Not even close. She’ll get a quality education. She’d seen enough of GT during her Calc classes last year to know it wasn’t for her and there were other options out there. My point was that it was tough to keep the scholarship before the change in rules.

Keep your rude attitude to yourself.

GA Citizen & UGA Grad

February 28th, 2011
6:52 pm

As I listened to the Georgia Gang on PBS this past Sunday morning, one of the commentators mentioned that she felt “the state should pay for everyone’s college.” Excuse me? So now a paid for college education is an entitlement? Oh, no you don’t! I graduated from UGA pre-HOPE. I worked 30 hours a week at a grocery store while I pulled a full course load. I received enough scholarship money to pay for the first 2-1/2 years of school. My mom and I both worked very hard so that I wouldn’t have to get a loan. (My parents were divorced and my father paid not one dime of child support – yet the requirement to count his income kept me from receiving any grants). If you want a college education bad enough, you will find a way to get one. It may mean that you go to a junior college and transfer to the larger university or take 5 years to complete your undergrad degree while you work full-time. Paying for part of it myself made me appreciate the experience even more. I later paid for graduate school completely on my own – cash flowing it as I went. And yes, I’m a K-12 teacher.


February 28th, 2011
6:59 pm

College Mom what school out of state did you daughter go to and start her Engineering degree?


February 28th, 2011
8:49 pm

I will be picking up the 10% for my oldest next year. If not for HOPE she would have most likely already finished school, but she is well skilled in working HOPE for the maximum number of semesters. Maybe she will hurry up and finish now that she is having to pay. I’ve changed my mind, I’m letting the kid pick up her tab.


February 28th, 2011
8:53 pm

University textbooks are expensive, but universities have
other options to lower the cost if they choose to
inconvenience some of the professors. I was fortunate
in college(undergraduate) to not directly have to pay the
outrageous prices,because every student was assessed
a higher student fee rate and the university recycled the
books for student use (textbook rental system). Many
professors did not like the system because they may
have had to justify the need for updated texts,but in most
classes the older versions were fine. I still find it troubling
that too many people can’t ,or won’t invest more money
saving for their child’s college education. A good student
should not have to rely on the last minute impulse buying
of a lottery ticket as the only ,or primary option to pay for
college. The HOPE Scholarship should have been kept
the same with each student receiving a little less funding
to maintain the original purpose of the scholarship.
it worked

GA Teach

February 28th, 2011
9:16 pm


The link I posted was only for the 2007 and 2008 school year, There have been adjustments made and they add the .5 to all A’s but the student cannot have an overall GPA over 4.0.




GA Teach

February 28th, 2011
9:17 pm

Funny the link that says 2007 is for 2010..

GA Teach

February 28th, 2011
9:28 pm

@Gail…you were correct….on the max of 4.0, but honestly most students that take a lot of AP classes have a high GPA…They still have to get accepted into the college…Rigor is a must.


February 28th, 2011
9:30 pm

I feel that one thing needs to be clarified. Not once, in the current bill, does it use the word ninety or the number 90. Deal said based on this year’s tuition and lottery revenue that it would be roughly 90%. MD is incorrect to say that it will pay 90%. No one knows what it will pay from year to year. If cuts to Regents continue (thus raising tuition) and lottery revenue stays flat, then it will not pay 90%. And each year after that the % paid will only go down.

Also, taxpayers do not pay 75% of tuition. It used to be that high, but over the past 8 years it has dropped to roughly 60-65%. That is one reason why tuition has increased so much over that time period.

another comment

February 28th, 2011
9:48 pm

For all of you that Think that Georgia Tech hung the moon, in Engineering Schools it has not. There are vast differences in Engineering Schools out there and they vary by major. I have hired and worked with Engineers and Architects throughout my career. I would never send my children to Ga tech based on the facts that I have personally seen far better Architects and Engineers from other Schools. I have also seen first hand some of the absolute Fraud’s with PHd’s that Georgia Tech has hired to teach in it Engineering School. Take a close look at past and present GA Tech Faculty who have worked at the US DOD bounced from Department to Department. Started at DOD as a Secretary, messed around with a General. Got promoted sent off for a Degree, ended up with a Degree, certain places were the predecessors to the current day on-line Degree Mills. Added there name to Patents with the real collaborators. Padded their CV. Went around and told people that the real reason they took the GA Tech teaching profession was to earn about $400k a year in Consulting fees a year. Then to top it off this Fraud could not even teach their own class, they were constantly bringing in visiting professionals from the community to teach the class for free for them.

There are better options outside of Georgia for the top student, that guarantee 4 year free rides. That are based on high SAT and real depth of courses taken.


February 28th, 2011
9:50 pm

Where can I find the number of students who finish school using HOPE? Are 50% starting with HOPE and keeping it until the end?

another comment

February 28th, 2011
9:51 pm

Why aren’t we talking about the real Fraud about Hope the Hope Grant? Lets get rid of it completely.


February 28th, 2011
10:07 pm

Is the HOPE Grant for techincal schools? I am confused why students wouldn’t just get this instead.